Theres Romance in the Data

A recent survey taken by came back with some unexpected-but-maybe-pretty-expected stats regarding digital books and romance readers: Roughly 89% of purchased e-books are romance novels and the genre dominates over a third of the entire eBook market. Compare that to the print market, in which romance is wedged between goliath fiction and non-fiction sales at a meager 4%, and you’re left with more than a few unanswered questions surrounding a genre prone to heavy ambivalence. More than any other genre, romance is either fodder for eye rolls and decimating comments, or selectively adored by readers starry eyed for Nicolas Sparks.

Images courtesy of AuthorsEarnings.

This ambivalence lends itself to the print results, but doesn’t exactly explain the eBook results. The heavy saturation of heart throb and love triangle loaded reads in the eBook market is better explained by severe under-reporting. According to AuthorsEarning’s research, digital stats are not traditionally included in overall industry metrics. They estimate as much as 67% of romance sales go unreported.

Romance may be more widely read than it appears to be in traditional print stats, but even so, that still doesn’t account for why romance readers dominate the eBook market. There are, however, a few ideas.

Some have pointed to the fact that publishers with a large number of romance imprints, or publishers oriented towards romance more generally, gunned it to the digital market in the heyday of the first Amazon Kindle. Harlequin was selling eBook editions as early at 2006 and, following suit, indie publishers hopped aboard too. Independent publishers recognized that the genre was ready terrain for niche reads and needed small publishers to address these selective demographics. Given the sheer volume of books available on Amazon, it’s natural that readers would flock to the web to scour out their their own cubbyhole of favorites.

Traditionally speaking, romance novels also tend to be shorter than mainstream fiction and nonfiction, both of which have seen their lengths increase by 25% in the past 15 years. While bookstore buyers tend to opt for these longer reads, romance readers tend to go online to make their purchases. It could be that because romance is cheaper and shorter (and digital access so…accessible), there’s less weight on the decision to purchase a book and little standing in their way of purchasing many.

There’s also the glaringly obvious fact: romance readers prefer a little more privacy. EBooks cater to discreet reading and, to the relief of many romance readers, forgo covers with semi-scandalous titles and hunky heroes for the anonymity of a tablet.

These are just a few of many speculations, however. The survey results may be in but the reasons are varied and complex, and far from any grounded conclusion. Romance readers – what’s your take on the data? Share your thoughts with us in the comments.

Featured image courtesy of Techno Buffalo.